U.S. forces in Afghanistan have nearly tripled in the last three
years, from 9,500 in 2002, to 26,000 today. Most (14,000) of the current force
is assigned to NATO, while the rest are training Afghan troops or Special
Forces running special operations. You don't hear much about either of these
operations, but both are vital to the success of the new Afghan government.
That's because tribal warfare is the norm in rural Afghanistan. The Taliban are
basically a movement that unites religious fervor and tribal loyalty into yet
another tribe based conflict. Superior foreign troops can stamp out the tribal
warriors easily enough, that's been done for thousands of years. But to shut
down the tribal war making machine, you need Afghan troops, and Afghan
8, 2007: Claiming they are, "liberators not occupiers,"
Germany, France, Italy and Spain have dug in their heels and affirmed their
refusal to allow their peacekeeping troops in Afghanistan to fight the Taliban.
Germany did agree to send eight Tornado reconnaissance aircraft to Afghanistan.
But these warplanes can only fly over the Taliban, and photograph them, but not
bomb them. There are also some German commandos in Afghanistan, who apparently
fight, but the Germans don't like to talk about that. Only about 30 percent of
the 35,000 NATO troops (those from Britain, Canada and the Netherlands) are
allowed to fight the Taliban. The remainder patrol areas where there is little,
or no, Taliban activity, and are instructed to back off if confronted by the
7, 2007: Several roadside bombs left eight policemen dead. In eastern
Afghanistan, a raid captured two al Qaeda couriers, and four other suspects.
Another suspect was killed. There's a lot of al Qaeda traffic back and forth
across the border in this area. In Pakistan, the Taliban are allied with al
Qaeda, which has become expert at delivering suicide bomber attacks. However,
because of Taliban anger at Pakistani government air raids, al Qaeda bombers
have recently been hitting civilian targets in major cities. This is a big
no-no, as it agitates the foreigners and makes the government look bad. As a
result, there appears to be another war brewing, between the Pakistani army and
the Taliban tribes. This might mean that al Qaeda will temporarily shift some
operations to Afghanistan. When the Pakistani government gets motivated enough,
they can do a lot of damage to al Qaeda and the Taliban. But most of the time,
the many Islamic conservatives in the Pakistani security and intelligence
services are inclined to tolerate Islamic radical groups.
5, 2007: The Pakistani effort to register Afghan refugees in Pakistan is
80 percent complete. Apparently there are still some 2.4 million Afghans in
Pakistan. That's nearly ten percent of the Afghan population. About two thirds
of these Afghans are in Pakistan's North West tribal areas. As such, these
refugees are Pushtun tribesmen living among their Pushtun cousins. This
is not the case for the 20 percent of the refugees living in southwest Pakistan
(Baluchistan). However, the Baluchi tribes are similar to the Pushtun ones, and
many Baluchis support the Taliban cause. The remaining 15 percent of the
refugees are scattered all over Pakistan. Many of these refugees have been in
Pakistan for over 20 years, having arrived after the Russian invasion of 1979.
These people have settled down, with the help of UN and American aid programs.
4, 2007: In the southern town of Musa Qala, where a pro-Taliban tribal
faction has taken over, a U.S. missile killed the Taliban leader, Mullah
Ghafour, as he rode into the town. The government has told the residents
of Musa Qala to get out of town, because the 200 or so Taliban were
digging in and preparing a fight to death. The U.S. wants to accommodate them
with minimal civilian losses. Apparently Mullah Ghafour was upset because
his brother, also a Taliban adherent, was killed by an American bomb last week.
Afghans believe the smart bombs and missiles are somewhat unfair, since you
cannot shoot back. Bushwacking a man is more acceptable, though, and rather
respected. Hitting your enemy when he doesn't expect it is admired, but you
should put yourself at some risk while killing the guy.